hill country observerThe independent newspaper of eastern New York, southwestern Vermont and the Berkshires

May 2017   Facebook linkHill Country Observer TwitterHill Country Instagram page NEWS ARCHIVE



Coalition shapes a grand plan for downtown Bennington

Over the next four years, local civic leaders say a cluster of vacant or underused properties in downtown Bennington will be transformed into a thriving urban hub -- with new stores, restaurants, offices and apartments created in a series of new or renovated multi-story buildings. The effort to redevelop the “Putnam block,” which began taking shape more than two years ago, encompasses nearly the entire southwestern quadrant of the “four corners,” the intersection of U.S. Route 7 and state Route 9 in the center of downtown.

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Exploring the ukulele’s deeper side

Former journalist turns to song, recording and touring.
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Banning the plastic shopping bag?

The days of supermarkets packing groceries into single-use shopping bags may be nearing an end in Pittsfield. The city is considering joining five other communities in Berkshire County -- Great Barrington, Lee, Lenox, Williamstown and Adams -- that already have banned or restricted use of the bags. Meanwhile, state legislators in Vermont are weighing proposals to halt or discourage use of the bags, which environmental activists have long viewed as unnecessarily wasteful.

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Distilling spirits from local corn, upstate grains

John McDougall was propelled into the distilling business five years ago by something he saw on the History Channel. Already adept at making wine and crafting home-brewed beer, McDougall happened upon a show that discussed how small-batch distilleries were popping up and thriving around the nation. Soon he was visiting some of the pioneers of New York’s farm-based distillery movement, and in 2012, McDougall, his wife and son started Lake George Distilling Co. Now the McDougalls buy local corn and grains by the ton.
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In verse, a new voice tackles tough themes

Phillip B. Williams is a visiting professor at Bennington College this year, teaching creative writing and English literature. This spring, his first collection of poems, “Thief of the Interior,” won a Whiting Award, an honor bestowed annually to 10 emerging writers in fiction, nonfiction, poetry and drama. Williams writes often in visceral images, telling the stories of people who deal with blood, with extremes, because they have to.

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Belcher Hollow Forge, Handforged iron